January 24, 2019 / 8:04 AM / 6 months ago

Rouble slightly up on local taxes, Venezuela in focus

MOSCOW, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble firmed slightly on Thursday, buoyed by local demand linked to month-end tax payments, as market players watched developments in Venezuela.

Venezuela came into focus after its opposition leader, Juan Guaido, declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning the backing of Washington and many Latin American nations.

However, Russian officials condemned the move as illegal, raising concerns of more geopolitical tensions between Moscow and the West.

If Moscow supports President Nicolas Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013, it may give the U.S. Congress a reason to kickstart sanctions against Russia, said Kirill Tremasov, the head of research at Loko-Invest.

“Developments in Venezuela are certainly the key factor for markets in the coming days,” said Tremasov, a former head of the forecasting department at the economy ministry.

The rouble hit 65.99 versus the dollar for the first time since Dec. 7 but later pared gains and traded at 66.04 as of 0741 GMT, up 0.05 percent on the day.

Against the euro, the rouble gained 0.2 percent to 75.09.

The rouble retains support from high oil prices and month-end taxes that usually prompt export-focused companies to convert dollar revenues to meet local liabilities.

“Today exporters’ support can still be felt but in the longer term the rouble’s dynamics and its direction will be more dependent on speculators and financial investors,” said Dmitry Polevoy, chief economist at Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Looking forward, VTB Capital says the rouble has chances to firm to 64.5 against the dollar in the first quarter as the global environment is likely to be supportive for emerging markets.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 0.4 percent at $60.91 a barrel, trading away from its lowest level since mid-2017 of $49.93 it hit last month.

Russian stock indexes were mixed. The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.1 percent to 1,187.3 points, while the rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.1 percent lower at 2,488.4 points.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see (Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh Editing by Gareth Jones)

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